#TwoForTuesday: The Sherman Brothers

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Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman have written more motion-picture musical scores than any other songwriters in the history of film. They’re probably known best for their work in Disney movies, among them Mary Poppins (the story has it that when Walt was feeling depressed, they would play “Feed The Birds” from the soundtrack for him), The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and also wrote the music for the screen adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They also wrote music for the Disney theme parks and for stage adaptations of their film work, and managed to write some songs besides.

One of those songs, “You’re Sixteen,” was a #1 hit twice, for Johnny Burnette in 1960 and Ringo Starr in 1973. Here’s Ringo’s version.

Their first Top Ten hit was “Tall Paul,” written in 1958. It was recorded by Mouseketeer Judy Harriet and later covered by Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. Here’s Annette’s version.

IMDb has a separate list of film credits for Robert and Richard. They do have a website, but there’s little information about their music there; the Wikipedia article about them is more complete.

The Sherman Brothers, your Two for Tuesday, November 10, 2015.

#TwoForTuesday: Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby

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Bert Kalmar had been a vaudeville performer whose career as a dancer was cut short by a knee injury, after which he turned to writing songs full-time. Harry Ruby, who had worked for Kalmar as a song plugger, got Kalmar a songwriting job at the Tin Pan Alley firm of Waterson, Berlin, and Snyder. After working with several partners, Ruby felt a compatibility with Kalmar, and by 1920 they were writing songs and comedy scripts for Broadway and Hollywood, a partnership that lasted until Kalmar’s death in 1947. The 1950 movie Three Little Words, starring Fred Astaire as Kalmar and Red Skelton as Ruby, is based on their lives and careers.

Our first song is “Three Little Words,” written for the 1930 movie Check and Double Check, starring Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden as Amos ‘n’ Andy. The script for the film was also written by Kalmar and Ruby, assisted by J. Walter Ruben. Lack of political correctness 85 years later notwithstanding, this film introduced Duke Ellington to the world beyond Harlem. Here’s Duke with his Cotton Club Band, with vocals by The Rhythm Boys (Bing Crosby, Harry Barris, and Al Rinker).

Our second song is “Just Wait ’til I Get Through With It,” from the 1933 movie Duck Soup, starring the Marx Brothers and Margaret Dumont. Kalmar and Ruby wrote the script as well as several musical numbers.

Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, your Two for Tuesday, October 27, 2015.

#TwoForTuesday: Rodgers & Hart

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Richard Rodgers (composer) and Lorenz Hart (librettist) were a songwriting duo who wrote 28 stage musicals and over 500 songs together from 1919 to 1943, when Hart died. Many of their songs are jazz standards; for example, Ella Fitzgerald recorded the two-volume Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers and Hart Songbook in 1956.

First up is Tal Farlow’s 1954 recording of “Have You Met Miss Jones?” Rodgers and Hart wrote the song for the 1937 musical I’d Rather Be Right. Accompanying Tal are Gerald Wiggins on piano, Ray Brown on bass, and Chico Hamilton on drums.

Our second song today is “Blue Moon,” written for 1934’s Manhattan Melodrama. This is the doo-wop version recorded by The Marcels in 1961 that reached #1 on the Hot 100.

A full list of the shows they wrote and some of the more popular songs can be found on Wikipedia. I think you’ll find you recognize a few of them.

Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, your Two for Tuesday, September 15, 2015.

#TwoForTuesday: Lerner and Loewe

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Alan Jay Lerner (librettist) and Frederick “Fritz” Loewe (composer) wrote ten musicals together, but those shows contained some of the most memorable songs of all time. They met at the Lambs Club in 1942; Loewe was on his way to the restroom, saw Lerner, and asked him if he wrote lyrics, which Lerner confirmed. Lerner was definitely the more dominant member of the team, often rejecting Loewe’s music even though it was perfect, believing that Loewe could do better. Nevertheless, the two men considered each other the best of friends.

First on the list today is “The Night They Invented Champagne,” from the 1958 movie Gigi starring Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, Maurice Chevalier, and Hermione Gingold. Ms. Caron’s voice was dubbed by Betty Wand for the movie, but here we’re treated to her own voice.

Lerner and Loewe wrote the musical Paint Your Wagon in 1951, and it was adapted for the screen in 1969 by Paddy Chayefsky. The critics didn’t like the film, which ran close to three hours, and despite being one of the highest-grossing films of 1969, it didn’t cover the cost of making it. It starred Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, and Jean Seberg; Marvin and Eastwood sang their own numbers, while Seberg’s voice was dubbed. “Wandrin’ Star,” sung by Marvin, became a hit in the UK and Ireland in 1969. Marvin is not generally regarded as a singer, but I don’t think anyone could have done a better job of singing it.

I’ve skipped over several of their more popular and well-known musicals, including Brigadoon, My Fair Lady, and Camelot. Each of them could easily provide the music for a Two for Tuesday all by themselves. Maybe that will be a future series on Two for Tuesday, songs from musicals…

Lerner and Loewe, your Two for Tuesday, September 8, 2015.

#TwoForTuesday: Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller

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At a time when songs by black R&B artists were classified as “race records” and had a hard time getting airplay on Top 40 radio stations, many of those songs were written by two white Jewish guys, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. They had a long list of songs that charted on the US and UK pop charts and on the R&B chart, both as a songwriting duo and as composers working with other songwriters, and artists as diverse as Big Mama Thornton, Hank Snow, Michael McDonald, and Elvis Presley had hits with their songs, many of which were covered by other artists and became hits for them as well.

Let’s get right to the music. Their first #1 hit on the R&B chart was “Hound Dog,” recorded first by Big Mama Thornton in 1953 and three years later by Elvis Presley. His version reached #1 on both the pop and R&B charts. This is the original, a live version by Big Mama. I have no idea who the members of her band are, but it’s one funky band, I’d say.

Next is “Is That All There Is?” It didn’t chart for Dan Daniels, the original singer who recorded it in 1968, but it reached #11 a year later for Miss Peggy Lee. Here’s her version.

I chose these two songs because I never knew that Lieber and Stoller had written them. There are probably lots of songs you didn’t know they had written, too, so do yourself a favor: go out to the list of their songs on Wikipedia, find the songs on YouTube, and just listen. They wrote some of the best-known and most popular songs of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and there’s plenty more where those came from.

Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, your Two for Tuesday, August 11, 2015.